D. G. Van Clief Jr., commissioner of the National Thoroughbred Association, said the NTRA will move forward with three goals: to make racing a Top 10 sport in America, grow handle to specific target levels, and to act as a convening authority. In the closing panel discussion at the Symposium on Racing in Tucson, Ariz. Van Clief, along with NTRA president Greg Avioli and Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of marketing, discussed new developments and changes within the organization.Van Clief spelled out the 2005 NTRA action plan, which will include moving ahead with their federal legislative agenda and increasing political action committee fundraising to $1 million per election cycle. In the 2003-2004 election cycle, the NTRA PAC raised $800,000 and disbursed $465,000 to candidates.Other priorities in the action plan are setting television scheduling, securing future Breeders' Cup host sites and television contracts, and renewing sponsorship contracts.Chamblin said the NTRA has extended its John Deere sponsorship through 2007 and a new sponsor will be announced next week.Avioli said the legislative agenda for 2005 included protecting racing's unique form of wagering--the only legal form of Internet wagering-- and seeking tax relief measures. "Protection of account wagering and simulcasting is top priority," Avioli said.Avioli said the NTRA hopes to work as a convening authority through the Wagering System Task Force to address the "handle up, purses down" problem."We cant do things in terms of legislation and convening authority without the support of you," he told audience members. "We do not want to propose things we can not follow through on."Van Clief made it clear that although promoting account wagering as a unique element of the sport to attract fans will play a vital role in their strategic plan of action, "account wagering alone won't do the trick," he said. "It's not the silver bullet."
Chamblin said the NTRA will move forward with a marketing plan with enhanced television coverage and an expanded focus on handicapping and fan education -- a mix of education and entertainment he coined "edutainment." The plan also includes a goal of securing one new seven-figure sponsor each year through 2010, and a focus on creating advertising and public service announcements to grow fan base.
Van Clief also called on audience members to renew their support through NTRA membership. Current membership contracts are set to expire in 2005.Although he said the day-to-day challenges NTRA faces are "daunting," Van Clief added "we have a great deal of positive momentum to move us forward."